For a month, scientists and students of TSU’s Faculty of Geology and Geography conducted an excavation in the Novosibirsk Region at one of the largest mammoth graveyards in Eurasia, Remnants of these ancient animals abound in the Wolf Mane area. But this time, researchers stumbled upon a very deep level of bones whose existence no one had suspected. At a depth of about 1.7 to 2.1 meters, paleontologists discovered the bones of young and adult mammoths, which were much larger than their younger (in geological terms) relatives.
- Initially, we opened two bone levels - that is typical for Wolf Mane. We found many interesting instances, and it seemed that there was nothing more, - says Sergey Leshchinskiy, head of TSU's Laboratory of Mesozoic and Cenozoic Continental Ecosystems. - A week later we were going to go home, but there is an unspoken rule to check the underlying sediments for at least two shovel depths. We opened one place, then another and realized that we would have 10 days more to dig.
Having started to go deeper, paleontologists discovered bone-bearing sediments with such a high number of residues that were not known either for Wolf Mane or for another mammoth site in Russia. The concentration per square meter, with a thickness of sediments to half a meter, in some places exceeded 100 findings - vertebrae, ribs, limb bones, and others.
According to the scientist, the remains of wooly mammoths that have been found at such a deep level for Wolf Mane have a very good state of preservation. They were buried under a layer of clay and sand in a small wash several years after the death of the animals. Important to note that a relatively large amount of anatomic articulation was found, which will help paleontologists to learn more about the place, find the causes of death of individuals, and determine their age, size, and other characteristics.
Paleontologists believe that the bones of the lowest level belong to the animals that came to Wolf Mane for several thousand years before the mammoths, the remains of which different scientists began to find in the 1960s, that is, since the discovery of the “cemetery” of megafauna.
- Among the largest pieces is a thigh with the length of almost 1 meter 15 centimeters, - says Sergey Leshinskiy. - Probably, it belonged to a male mammoth aged 45-50 years, which weighed 5-6 tons or more, and its height with account of the soft tissues exceeded 3 meters. Its remains, perhaps, lay in the formation for 20-25 or even 30 millennia. More precisely, we can determine it with the help of the radiocarbon analysis where we plan to send a part of the findings.
According to scientists, a large difference in size between the mammoths of the lower and higher levels is explained by the fact that at the final period of its existence, this species had powerful pressure from unfavorable environmental factors. Judging by the fact that the signs of osteodystrophy are present in many remains of later mammoths, the animals were suffering from mineral starvation. That is what led them to animal black alkali soils, like Wolf Mane, where dozens of millennia later, TSU paleontologists found the remains of the largest mammals on the planet.
At Wolf Mane scientists and students have revealed not only the remains of mammoths (at least 8 individuals). Of 785 discovered findings, some teeth and bones belong to bison, horses, predators (probably fox or polar fox), and rodents. According to the researchers, this is only a small part of what Wolf Mane hides. In fact, in this place that was a mineral oasis for mammoth, what is under the earth's surface may contains the remains of hundreds or even thousands of individuals.